Stomach feels like it's burning? Heartburn is unbearable? Abdomen is bloated? You might have a peptic ulcer — either a gastric ulcer inside your stomach, or a duodenal ulcer inside the upper portion of your large intestine.
"Symptoms of ulcers vary from burning upper abdominal pain, reflux, loss of appetite and weight loss. In really severe cases bleeding may occur," says naturopathic medical intern Breanne Kallonen.
Most peptic ulcers are caused by infection with the bacterium helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and long-term use of NSAID painkillers like Aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium. There is also some evidence that some people are more genetically susceptible to ulcers.
People used to believe that ulcers were caused by certain foods, but we now know that's not the case — unfortunately, you can't solve the problem simply by cutting out coffee or hot sauce. But the good news is that relatively simple changes to your diet can help relieve the symptoms of ulcers.
The good news is that relatively simple changes to your diet can help relieve the symptoms of ulcers.
In combination with a treatment plan with your healthcare provider, these dietary changes could have you feeling better sooner rather than later.
Cut down on alcohol
Alcohol can irritate your stomach lining and it also increases the amount of stomach acid you produce — both things that can make ulcer symptoms worse. "If you're drinking more than the daily recommendation then it would be smart to try to cut down or abstain for a period of time and see if it helps," says registered dietitian Molly Cleary.
Reduce your coffee consumption
"There's evidence that pepper and caffeine can increase acid secretion in the stomach, so trying to cut down on or abstain from these foods may help," says Cleary. The caffeine in coffee and soda can stimulate the production of stomach acid, which can lead to irritation of the stomach lining.
Consider weight loss
"There are potential links to obesity and ulcer prevalence," says Cleary. "Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in saturated fat such as fried food can help to keep weight in check and may help prevent ulcers."
These foods may not directly reduce your ulcer symptoms, but changing your diet to help control weight could have a long-term benefit.
Reduce spicy foods
It's a myth that spicy foods can cause ulcers, but they can make the symptoms worse if they irritate your stomach lining. If spicy foods cause you problems, consider reducing them in your diet. But there is also evidence that foods containing capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, may have a protective effect against the symptoms of ulcers or even help in healing them.
It's a myth that spicy foods can cause ulcers, but they can make the symptoms worse if they irritate your stomach lining.
Munch on cruciferous vegetables
There's some evidence that cruciferous foods like cauliflower or broccoli sprouts could help reduce ulcer-related symptoms. In one small study, patients consumed broccoli sprouts (14g, 28g, or 56g) twice daily for seven days, Kallonen says. "Results from stool antigen testing and urea breath testing showed consuming broccoli sprouts was associated with eradication of H. pylori infection in three of nine patients."
Eat high-fibre foods
"Research suggests that low-fibre intake and the consumption of processed and refined grains to be associated with increased risk of developing peptic ulcers," says Kallonen. Look for whole grains and avoid overly refined grain products in order to up your fibre consumption. Beans, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are all good sources of soluble fibre.
Drink licorice tea
"Extracts of licorice have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of peptic ulcers," says Kallonen. Look for deglycchizinated licorice, which avoids the potential side effect of water retention, in extracts or teas, she says.
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